On Friday, one of my daughter’s preschool teachers jokingly asked me what I was planning to get my boss – the lady who could have anything – for her birthday. I laughed and answered, “I am really good at presents.” It is true. For Christmas, I sent her business cards that said “You’re So Cool, I’m Not Even Mad About It” for her to hand out in meetings, and the previous birthday I gave her inspirational, though expletive-laden stationary.
Today, she’ll turn 31 years old and on behalf of our incredible team at Born This Way Foundation and the millions of young people we work with and for, I’ll give her Channel Kindness.
I started working on Channel Kindness while I was on maternity leave, struggling through postpartum depression, and overwhelmed by the negativity in my own mind and in the world around me. I had been given the assignment to think about what a platform for young people to share the every day and heroic acts that they witness and do themselves that are contributing to building a kinder and braver world.
I struggled to imagine how I could provide a world of kindness, compassion and community to my son. My diverse, entrepreneurial, and collaborative generation appeared to be under attack; the burden of educational costs, the high unemployment rates, the growing number of young people responsible for caring for an aging parent, the growing economic divide between the people who had more than they could ever imagine and those that didn’t know where their next meal would come from. I reflected on my own reality and in those dark days, feared for the reality that my son would grow up into.
I took out a yellow folder and I labeled it Project X and each day I would sit at my local Starbucks with my son in a bucket seat, sleeping happily or coo’ing as he discovered the world around him. I read newspapers and cut out articles about young people. On one side of the folder, I would paper clip the positive ones and on the other side, I would paper clip the negative ones. Somehow, as the depressing pile on the right grew, I became stronger and more sure of my own ability to raise another life in this world, and to use my voice to shout the positivity that I so desperately wished to be reading and feeling. I read article after article about my violent, apathetic, lazy, and disengaged generation and I thought of the people I had been fortunate enough to meet in my life and each of them became a data point for Project X and in my confidence as a mother and a leader.
I have spent the past four years meeting, writing to, and hearing from hundreds of thousands of young people who are powerful data points that in spite of (perhaps, because of) the many, many reasons that they could be disheartened and disengaged, they actively choose to live and to tell a different story. They choose to focus on the good. They – we – are not naïve. On a personal, community, and global level, we know that we face crises on many levels, but we also know that in order to stand through today’s crises as well as tomorrow’s, we must not only believe but prove that the good outweighs the bad, that our strength outweighs our weakness, and that love outweighs hate.
I have now met the incredible young people that have brought the vision of Channel Kindness to life and I am even more sure of the power of heartfelt, honest, and brave stories and the power of the kindness, compassion, and commitment to problem solving and collaboration within my generation. I am confident in the world that my children will inherit. Here on this website, at Born This Way Foundation, for me in my life, the goal of our work is simple: channeling kindness.
Lady Gaga, Happy Birthday girl. Thank you for asking the question, setting the powerful vision, and channeling kindness in all that you do and all that you are.